The Granny of all deals
The “mother” could well become the “granny” of all defence deals in the years ahead. India is likely to go in for another 63 fighters after the delivery of the first 126 MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) if the “timelines” for its other fighter development projects are not met, say top defence officials. This would be the biggest overhaul of any air force in the world in such a short period. When the MMRCA selection process was initiated by the defence ministry in mid-2007, the overall project cost was pegged at 42,000 crore, or $10.4 billion, for 126 fighters. But it will zoom well beyond $20 billion if India eventually decides to opt for 189 jets since inflation is also being factored in. Even with 126 jets, this is the biggest such fighter contract going around the world as of now. The overhaul of the air force comes even as the defence ministry is all set to open the commercial bids of the two jets left in the MMRCA fray —French Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon — “within a week or two”. Eurofighter Typhoon is backed by the UK,Germany, Spain and Italy,MoD has already rejected “any scope for comeback” by the other four jets, including the American F/A-18s and F-16s, ejected out of the MMRCA race in April on technical grounds after gruelling field trials. “We are looking for only 126 fighters. The first 18 jets will come from abroad, while the rest will be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd after transfer of technology (ToT) from end-2016 or early-2017 onwards,” said a senior MoD official on Monday. “But yes, if the timelines for the Tejas LCA(Light Combat Aircraft) and the stealth Indo-Russian FGFA (Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft) projects are not met, we will go for more MMRCA to retain IAF’s combat edge,” the MoD official added.